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"Use your imagination. This is creativity we are talking about. Draw big and fill up your canvas.

"If you want to seriously learn how to paint, take and use the hints I give you."

These were among the first words William Cooper told three Buffalo children participating in their first painting class in a new program of the Buffalo Arts Studio on Saturday afternoon.

Artistic Buffalo youth are getting a chance to fine-tune their talents with Project CREATE -- Community Revitalization through Environmental Art and Team Effort -- which the Buffalo Arts Studio started in 1993 as a citywide mural program.

Now, with the help of a grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation, the Buffalo Arts Studio has expanded to include an education program housed in a 25,000-square-foot facility. Being offered are pottery, painting, photography and printmaking classes for a fee to children, teens and adults throughout the year.

For those who cannot pay for the classes, a scholarship program is in place so interested children and teens can participate, regardless of family income. About 20 students from several Buffalo public schools are now attending the classes, and the Buffalo Arts Studio hopes to quadruple that number by the end of the school year, according to Jason Trost, education coordinator for the studio.

"Right now we have five adult classes and four youth classes. By the end of the year we want to have classes with different skill levels. As the classes expand, they will be based on the needs of the students," said Trost. "The adult classes are in beginner and advanced levels to give people a chance to hone their skills.

"We are going through the Buffalo schools, trying to get more students to participate, but with the strike and transportation issues, recruitment has been slow going," said Trost.

Students who want to participate though the scholarship program must submit an essay describing the reasons they are applying, must be recommended by a teacher or community member, and parents have to submit proof of financial need.

"Right now there really are no financial guidelines set -- we're really just feeling it out," said Trost, emphasizing that nobody should feel discouraged from applying. "Most students are in need of assistance, and it is there for over 80 people. Right now, nearly two-thirds of the students are on a scholarship."

Trost said that the students who receive the scholarship are encouraged to take at least four courses of their choice throughout the year, which amounts to about $300, depending on the classes chosen.

"By taking at least the four classes, we can work with the kids to develop their interests and their portfolio," said Trost.

Instructors of the ProjectCREATE classes are professional teaching artists among the Buffalo Arts Studio's 45 resident artists.

For information on the program, classes or scholarships, call the studio at 833-4450.

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